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Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung



Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), WWV 86, is a cycle of four German-language epic music dramas composed by Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. It is often referred to as the Ring Cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The Ring. Wagner wrote the libretto and music over the course of about twenty-six years, from 1848 to 1874. The four parts that constitute the Ring cycle are, in sequence, Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried and finally, Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). Recorded live 6th September 1987.

Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung


As so often with Sterling issues production values are high with photos from the performance, synopsis, artist biographies, a long interview with Laila Andersson and, in a separate 100 page booklet, the complete libretto with English translation. The stereo recording is excellent in every respect and, apart from some stage noise during Siegfried’s Rhine journey and applause at the end of acts, there is nothing extra-musical that disturbs the enjoyment of the performance. Den Jyske Opera, which is the Danish name of the company, has its base in Aarhus but is a touring company that covers all of Denmark in cooperation with five symphony orchestras. Their production of Wagner’s Ring cycle 1984 – 1987 was a great success and it has become legendary. Therefore it is pleasant to have this recording as a memorial of a great event.

Francesco Cristofoli, Danish born in spite of his name, studied conducting with Sergiu Celebidache and was for many years conductor at Den Jyske Opera and later also manager of the opera. Here he leads a taut performance that can put many a reading by more prestigious conductors in the shade. The playing of the orchestra is first class and the male chorus has all the heft needed. The cast is mainly home-grown – the exceptions being Swedish Laila Andersson-Palme as Brünnhilde and American Elliot Palay as Siegfried – but a couple of them had important international careers. Best known is probably the magnificent bass Aage Haugland, who appeared at La Scala, Covent Garden, the Met and Bayreuth and Eva Johansson, who for many years was engaged at Deutsche Oper in Berlin and made guest appearances worldwide, making her Met debut in 1998 as Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
This performance must have been a thrilling experience in the theatre, but very much of the thrill also comes over to the listener via the atmospheric recording, which makes this a valuable documentation of legendary project thirty years ago as well as a musically substantial recording which can be enjoyed without any references to this specific occasion. I enjoyed this more than several more prestigious recordings I have heard. Göran Forsling, MusicWeb